We still have a long way to go when it comes to curtailing tobacco use worldwide, new research just published in The Lancet confirms. According to the latest estimates, nearly half of adult men in developing countries use tobacco products, while women increasingly take up smoking at younger ages, and the quit rate in most countries is far too low.
The study, led by Dr. Gary Giovino, an expert in tobacco use and cessation from the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, drew its data from the Global Adult Tobacco Surveys conducted between 2008 and 2010. The data allowed the researchers to compare patterns of tobacco use and cessation in people aged 15 or older from 14 low and middle income countries that account for the majority of tobacco-related disease worldwide. For comparison’s sake, representative data from the U.S. and U.K. were also included.
Findings on the whole were dismal: Among the over 3 billion adults living in the countries studied, around 852 million used tobacco (661 million smokers and 247 million using snuff, chewing tobacco, and similar products). Overall, 41 percent of men and 5 percent of women smoked, although these numbers varied significantly from country to country. For instance, while 0.5 percent of women in Egypt smoke, 25 percent of women in Poland, 21 percent of U.K. women, and 16 percent of U.S. women do.
Quit rates were lowest in the 14 developing countries, at less than 20 percent of adults who had ever smoked. The quit rates were highest in the U.K., USA, Brazil, and Uruguay, at about 35 percent.
Perhaps most troubling, however, say two specialists in a linked commentary in The Lancet, is the underinvestment in tobacco control. These experts point out that, in low-income countries, for every U.S. $9,100 received in tobacco taxes, only $1 was spent on tobacco control.
Yet as ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross notes (not without chagrin), “There is nothing here that says anything about how to deal with this problem. Once again, the pragmatic solution to the problem — tobacco harm reduction — is being ignored. The methods that most government-supported efforts advise have proven time and again to be worth little to those who need help most.
For more on tobacco harm reduction and why it is continually dismissed by the most prominent health organizations, we recommend another look at Dr. Ross’s recent op-ed on the topic for The Washington Examiner.